The numbers are in - Infonetics: PBX market down 6%, Unified Communications up 31% from year ago - Hosted PBX or UCaaS is growing. Well, sure, from zero to a couple of hundred million in ten years. Yet we come to a crossroads now. The premise people are shrinking but slowly. The first (and second) wave of HPBX customers are coming off contract -- and some are not happy with the results. The deployment and the promise (and even the user experience) have been below par and below customer expectations. Premise people were sold on HPBX as a replacement - that doesn't work often. Even the clients looking for the benefits of cloud comm have been misled. Some happy clients (usually on the M6 platform with Cisco 7200 phones) are end of life, so the migration will be a forklift. Hence, the lack of a cheering stand for HPBX or its latest buzzword UCaaS.
That unified inbox is an empty promise. Although it is spelled out nicely in this article about Google Apps:
9 Ways To Enhance Google Apps With Unified Communications is an article that explains a simple UC strategy: start with the idea of a unified messaging - one Inbox. Faxes, SMS/text, IM/chat (presence), emails, voicemails, conferences, video calls - all into one inbox.
Megapath is the latest CLEC to re-launch its HPBX offering; this time with a heavy bent on mobility (thanks to Counterpath). "As a combined solution, customers can get access to telephony capabilities with more than 50 calling and mobility features, such as voicemail transcribed as email, call recording and conferencing, and a number of new UC capabilities such as presence, video calling, screen sharing, and SMS text messaging." That's all of the UC components available, but the trick will be on deployment / implementation, user training, customer expectations -- all of the elements of user experience. Who knows if a CLEC has the chops to pull all of that off to create a customer experience that yields a raving fan.
There are so many players in the market that consolidation (and failures) are expected. The latest is that Alteva re-organized and received a take-over bid by a private equity firm. (Many CCA members would like a cash offer!)
Why am I talking about CX or UX (user or customer experience)? Because at the end of the day, all of the features in UCaaS will overwhelm the average user. They aren't intuitive. The phones aren't really clear what the buttons are for - and how many users will read a user guide?! The smart players will put help videos on the phones!
The benefits of cloud come from changing the way a business does business. UCaaS allows for many ways to change workflow and call flow, but without training and user acceptance, it will go against the grain (and the full benefits will never be utilized). That's where this article tries to go, as Culture will get in the way of Change:
Why Culture Eats UC Strategies For Lunch - "Too many unified communications implementations focus on technology without considering training, adoption, and -- most importantly -- company culture."
There is a ways to go in UCaaS especially in deployment, integration, training and CX. The ones that deliver on the true promise of UC will be winners (or will be bought!)